Why Hire a Military Sexual Assault Lawyer?September 26, 2019
A military sexual assault lawyer is civilian lawyer who has the competence, ability, and desire to represent military Servicemembers at Courts-Martial who are accused of sexual assault.
If a Servicemember is facing a sexual assault Court-Martial, they will be assigned a public defender. This lawyer will be an officer in the same service as the Servicemember accused. The accused Servicemember also has the option to hire their own military sexual assault lawyer. This article will discuss the reasons why a Servicemembers in this situation would benefit from doing so.
Experience or lack thereof
Public defenders in the military are only temporarily assigned to their positions. This naturally limits the amount of experience that he/she can have with sexual assault trials and Courts-Martial in general. A Servicemember’s assigned public defender at a sexual assault Court-Martial could possibly have never been in court before – that is a scary proposition. At most, they will have had close to two years of experience in their position.
Civilian lawyers, on the other hand, generally are much more experienced. If a civilian lawyer limits their practice to military cases, they are naturally going to have much more experience with military law and Courts-Martial. Additionally, many of these lawyers previously served as public defenders in the military, giving them even more experience.
Passion for being a Military Defense Lawyer
Public defenders in the military don’t always want to be in that assignment. Some JAGs do choose the role; however, many do not.
On the other hand, a civilian lawyer who chooses to defend military servicemen and women accused of sexual assault is doing what they want to do. It is (or at least should be) their passion. Someone doing what they love is much more likely to put their heart and soul into it – stay up late – go the extra mile – do everything they can to defend their client.
Choice of Counsel
A Servicemember, with a couple of exceptions, cannot chose their public defender for a sexual assault Court-Martial. They are stuck with who they are assigned.
If a Servicemember hires a civilian military lawyer, however, they of course get to choose who represents them. Servicemembers will be able to review that lawyers experience and previous client’s reviews. They will know exactly who they are putting their faith in.
Time and Attention
Military public defenders are usually very overworked. Not only do they carry heavy Court-Martial caseloads, but they represent Servicemembers at separation boards, nonjudicial punishment proceedings, and during investigations. These JAGs also usually provide legal services to more than one installation, greatly increasing the number of clients they have to pay attention to. Despite sometimes valiant efforts, they are simply limited in their time. Importantly, these public defenders cannot turn down a case that is assigned to them.
Civilian lawyers, however, can choose what cases they take on. This usually leads to a military sexual assault lawyer having less cases. It allows them to spend more time and effort on the cases they do take on. Servicemembers should ask a lawyer how many cases they have before they hire him/her. This will be a good indication of how much time they can spend on their case.
Public Defender Stays on the Case
If a Servicemember hires a civilian lawyer, his/her public defender stays on the case. The civilian lawyer takes the lead; however, the public defender still has an obligation to work with the civilian lawyer and best represent the Servicemember. Having two lawyers on a sexual assault Court-Martial should be appealing to an accused Servicemember. Two minds are better than one.
If a Servicemember does not hire a civilian military sexual assault lawyer, he/she may not get two lawyers at trial. Sometimes a second public defender will be assigned; however, this is not a requirement and is subject to availability. Also, that second public defender has a full caseload of their own and generally applies little time and effort to a case they get put on as a second counsel.
Consequences are Severe
The consequences of a sexual assault court-martial are severe. If convicted, a Servicemember risks decades in prison, a dishonorable discharge, sex offender registration, and other punishment. Of course, no one wants to go to jail. Furthermore, a dishonorable discharge basically strips a Servicemember of many basic rights that normal citizens enjoy. Finally, sex offender registration destroys someone’s life and prevents them from ever being able to work and live like a normal person.
With these severe consequences, any Servicemember facing a sexual assault court-martial should do everything they can to defend themselves.
This article was written by Attorney Matthew Barry